Have you noticed abandoned or derelict vessels in Biscayne Bay? Because we have quite a lot of them. These vessels are both navigational hazards and eyesores for our community. Derelict vessels ranging from large commercial ships to smaller recreational boats can shift during storms, destroying crucial benthic habitat – the bottom of a body of water, such as seagrass or coral reefs. Furthermore, toxic chemicals that were onboard at the time of sinking, or oil spills from the vessel itself, pose a threat to surrounding ecosystems and to human health. Additional debris from the vessels such as fishing gear, nets, and other dispersed trash can harm marine life as well.
It can be very costly to remove these abandoned vessels, but programs on both the state and federal level are working to address these issues. The Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is working on this issue in various ways. They are coordinating with the National Response Team to take note of removal efforts and produce guidance materials on a state-by-state basis. Additionally, OR&R is developing databases that include flagging wrecks that may be dispersing oil or chemicals into the water and mapping abandoned vessels. This has allowed NOAA to create and consolidate policies on abandoned vessels into one central source based on each coastal state.
In Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has established a program to provide grants to local governments for reimbursement for derelict vessel removal in state waters. A statewide map is another addition that can be used by the public to see where these vessels can be found, and can also be used for ease of location in the removal process.
These efforts aren’t just happening in the public sector. Last summer, the South Florida National Parks Trust (SFNPT) approved $28,500 in grants to remove seven derelict vessels from Florida Bay in Everglades National Park.
How can you get involved?
Help us keep track of abandoned or derelict vessels by contacting us when you see one. Take pictures and record its location with GPS if possible. And of course, stay safe. Remember to consult this Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission map (FWC) for submerged hazards.